SpaceX is another step closer to launching satellites into the atmosphere to provide the world with widespread internet coverage. The latest development, according to The Verge, comes as the Federal Communications Commission recently approved the company’s request to fly some of its satellites lower than originally planned.
Initially, SpaceX planned on launching 4,425 Starlink satellites into orbits that ranged between 1,110 to 1,325 kilometers; however, due to data gathered from its first two space tests, SpaceX changed its mind, now wanting to launch a quarter of those in different orbits. Now, the tech giant hopes to launch those satellites at 550 kilometers, which was approved by the FCC.
The Verge says SpaceX wants to shoot for a lower orbit for three key reasons:
- The Starlink satellite constellation will be able to cut its transmission time to 15 milliseconds
- Sixteen less satellites will be needed to obtain the same coverage, which cuts down on space debris
- Satellites will be able to be pulled out of orbit much quicker as they are affected by Earth’s atmosphere; this is especially helpful in case any satellites fail and become inoperable
While the company and FCC are excited about this next step, others have concerns. To start, competing companies, including OneWeb and Kepler Communications, both of which handle satellite solutions in space, argued that SpaceX’s lower satellites would interfere with theirs. Similarly, other concerns were raised about the increased risk of satellite collisions if and when these changed altitudes, “since other operators have similar orbits,” The Verge says.
However, the FCC dismissed both of these, saying that they didn’t feel SpaceX’s satellites would interfere with other companies’ satellites’ frequencies, nor did they think the satellits would pose a collision risk due to their ability to maneuver out of the way of approaching satellites.
SpaceX plans to launch the first string of satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida sometime this month.